'Our concern now is the southern hemisphere' - COVID Action Platform convenes leaders on the challenges ahead 

Workers are seen at a production line within the Shona Textiles Export Processing Zone (EPZ) as they make protective face masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), as a measure to stem the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Athi River near Nairobi, Kenya April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY - RC2E4G93D3EW
Workers make face masks and personal protection equipment near Nairobi, Kenya.
Image: REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi

"We are greatly concerned, because if this virus...becomes more serious in Africa, because the health system is weak, its damage could be very, very serious."

That was the impassioned warning of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), during a digital meeting of the Forum's COVID Action Platform on 15 April.

Launched last month, the Forum's platform aims to convene the business community for collective action to protect people’s livelihoods, facilitate business continuity and mobilize support for a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, more than 1,300 companies, organizations and individuals have joined the platform.

In addition to the Director-General, participants on this week's webinar included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Accenture CEO Julie Sweet and International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer.

Here are some key quotes from the meeting:

On the spread of coronavirus to developing countries:

"Our concern now is the southern hemisphere - and especially Africa," Dr. Tedros said of the WHO's shifting focus amid the ongoing spread of the coronavirus.

"Sharing experiences and helping each other is very important," he added, calling on the European Union to assist the African Union in its fight to contain COVID-19.

"We have to be prepared that the virus gets more intense in Africa," von der Leyen said, urging the global community to come together to find, produce and deploy a vaccine.

covid-19 first 40 days for africa and europe

"It affects the southern hemisphere potentially in a huge way, and we just have a small window of opportunity today to speed and scale the emergency response and preparedness to limit the crisis," Maurer said. He also noted that the coronavirus pandemic is not only a health and economic crisis, but also a "humanitarian crisis".

On the importance of solidarity in fighting the virus:

“When there is a crack at national levels [between] political parties, it is an opportunity for the virus to exploit,” Dr. Tedros said. But he added: “If there is strong national unity, then global solidarity will also be strong”.

"We need engagement across sectors," Maurer said, highlighting the urgency of "building alliances and coalitions" across industries and specialties.

There needs to be a "coordinated approach to lifting measures," argued von der Leyen. "The curve is flattening, but it does not mean it’s decreasing." She also called for a "Marshall Plan in the European Union" after the economy reopens, to help countries recover and plan for the future.

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